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09.12.2010 Nigeria

WIKILeaks Cable On Nigeria Reveals Oil Gaint SHELL’s grip On The Government

WIKILeaks Cable On Nigeria Reveals Oil Gaint SHELL’s grip On The Government
LISTEN DEC 9, 2010

The whistle blowing activity of Wikileaks centers on Nigeria. Apparently, Oil gaint Shell has a grip on the Nigerian state as the recent cable reveals that Shell has insiders in every key ministry of the Nigerian government with the government having no idea. Reactions have followed as expected. As well as providing US Diplomats name of politicians suspected to support and fund militancy in the restive Niger Delta area. See report published by the UK Guardian below:

The oil giant Shell claimed it has inserted its staff into all key ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians' every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

The company's top executive in Nigeria told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew “everything that was being done in those ministries”. She boasted that the Nigerian government had “forgotten” about the extent of Shell's infiltration and were unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.

The cache of secret dispatches from Washington's embassies in Africa also revealed that the Anglo-Dutch oil firm swapped intelligence with the US, in one case providing US diplomats with the names of Nigerian politicians it suspected of supporting militant activity and requesting information from the US on whether the militants had acquired anti-aircraft missiles.

Other cables released tonight reveal:

• US diplomats fear that Kenya could erupt in violence worse than that experienced after the election in 2008 unless rampant government corruption is tackled.

• America asked Uganda to let it know if its army intended to commit war crimes based on US intelligence – but did not try to prevent war crimes taking place.

• Washington's ambassador to the troubled African state of Eritrea described its president, Isaias Afwerki, as a cruel “unhinged dictator” who's regime was “one bullet away from implosion”.

The latest revelations came on a day that saw hackers sympathetic to WikiLeaks target Mastercard and Visa over their decision to block payments to the whistleblowers' website whose founder, Julian Assange, spent a second night in jail after a judge refused him bail ahead of an extradition hearing to face questioning over sexual assault charges in Sweden.

Campaigners tonight said the revelation about Shell in Nigeria demonstrate the tangled links between the oil firm and politicians in the country where, despite billions of dollars in oil revenue, 70% of people live below the poverty line.

Cables from Nigeria show how Ann Pickard, then Shell's vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa, sought to share intelligence with the US government on militant activity and business competition in the contested Niger Delta – and how, with some prescience, she seemed reluctant to open up because of a suspicion the US government was “leaky”.

But that did not prevent Pickard disclosing the company's reach into the Nigerian government when she met US ambassador Robin Renee Sanders, recorded in a confidential memo from the US embassy in Abuja on 20 October 2009.

At the meeting Pickard related how the company had obtained a letter showing that the Nigerian government had invited bids for oil concessions from China. She said the minister of state for petroleum resources Odein Ajumogobia had denied the letter had been sent but Shell knew similar correspondence had taken place with China and Russia.

The ambassador reported: “She said the GON [government of Nigeria] had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries.”

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil producer and the eighth biggest exporter in the world, accounting for 8% of US oil imports. Although a recent UN report largely exonerated the company, critics accuse Shell, the biggest operator in the delta, and other companies, of causing widespread pollution and environmental damage in the region. Militant groups engaged in hostage-taking and sabotage have proliferated.

The WikiLeaks disclosure was today seized on by campaigners as evidence of Shell's vice-like grip on the country's oil wealth. “Shell and the government of Nigeria are two sides of the same coin,” said Celestine AkpoBari, programme officer for Social Action Nigeria.

“Shell is everywhere. They have an eye and an ear in every ministry of Nigeria. They have people on the payroll in every community, which is why they get away with everything. They are more powerful than the Nigerian government.”

The criticism was echoed by Ben Amunwa of the London-based oil watchdog Platform. “Shell claims to have nothing to do with Nigerian politics,” he said. “In reality, Shell works deep inside the system, and has long exploited political channels in Nigeria to its own advantage.”

Nigeria tonight strenuously denied the claim. Levi Ajuonoma, a spokesman for the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, said: “Shell does not control the government of Nigeria and has never controlled the government of Nigeria. This cable is the mere interpretation of one individual. It is absolutely untrue, an absolute falsehood and utterly misleading. It is an attempt to demean the government and we will not stand for that. I don't think anybody will lose sleep over it.”

Another cable released today, from the US consulate in Lagos and dated 19 September 2008, claims that Pickard told US diplomats that two named regional politicians were behind unrest in the Rivers state. She also asked if the American diplomats had any intelligence on shipments of surface to air missiles (SAMs) to militants in the Niger Delta.

“She claimed Shell has 'intelligence' that one to three SAMs may have been shipped to Nigerian militant groups, although she seemed somewhat sceptical of that information and wondered if such sensitive systems would last long in the harsh environment of the Niger Delta,” the cable said.

Pickard also said Shell had learned from the British government details of Russian energy company Gazprom's ambitions to enter the Nigerian market. In June last year Gazprom signed a $2.5bn (£1.5bn) deal with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to build refineries, pipelines and gas power stations.

Shell put a request to the US consulate for potentially sensitive intelligence about its possible rival, which she said had secured a promise from the Nigerian government of access to 17 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – roughly a tenth of Nigeria's entire reserves. “Pickard said that amount of gas was only available if the GON were to take concessions currently assigned to other oil companies and give them to Gazprom. She assumed Shell would be the GON's prime target.” Pickard alleged that a conversation with a Nigerian government minister had been secretly recorded by the Russians. Shortly after the meeting in the minister's office she received a verbatim transcript of the meeting “from Russia”, according to the memo.

The cable concludes with the observation that the oil executive had tended to be guarded in discussion with US officials. “Pickard has repeatedly told us she does not like to talk to USG [US government] officials because the USG is 'leaky'.” She may be concerned that…bad news about Shell's Nigerian operations will leak out.”

Shell declined to comment on the allegations, saying: “You are seeking our views on a leaked cable allegedly containing information about a private conversation involving a Shell representative, but have declined to share this cable or to permit us sufficient time to obtain information from the person you say took part in the conversation on the part of Shell. In view of this, we cannot comment on the alleged contents of the cable, including the correctness or incorrectness of any statements you say it contains.”

Also revealed is a cable made during the political turmoil in the country early this year when Yar'Adua was alive and ailing in February.

Read below: Friday, 26 February 2010, 16:37
S E C R E T ABUJA 000215
EO 12958 DECL: 2020/02/26
CLASSIFIED BY: Robin R. Sanders, Ambassador, STATE, EXEC; REASON: 1.4(A), (B), (D)
¶1. (C) Ambassador met February 26 with Acting President (AgP) Dr. Goodluck Jonathan at the Vice President's official residence, Aguda House, in Abuja to review the current political situation following the return earlier this week of ailing President Yar'Adua. Moves are afoot, between Jonathan and key northerners in the lead such as former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, to encourage the Yar'Adua family to let go and let the President resign with dignity. This will allow Jonathan to serve as interim President until elections and also allow him to designate a vice president. Given the dysfunctional level of the current Cabinet, Jonathan said that once this happens, he will dissolve the cabinet, after consulting with the Council of State. Both moves, he believes, will appease Northern politicians, as he suspects that more northerners will support the resignation idea. Jonathan claims he wants to do a good job over the next 12 months, and leave a legacy of credible elections, electoral reform, including replacing the Independent National Electoral Commission's (INEC) chairman and all of the commissioners. He promised the Ambassador that he would look at her suggestion of using terminal leave for the INEC chairman, which could have him out earlier than June. The Acting President also agreed to allow U.S.-UK technical assistance to help improve the voter registry and provide for a parallel vote tabulation. He expects things to calm down in the next 10-14 days, will not leave the country until things are resolved, and has opened channels with the military. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) was leaving Jonathan's private office when Ambassador was entering. End Summary.
¶2. (C) Jonathan told the Ambassador “everyone's confused” about who is in charge of Nigeria. There has been an increase in the level of uncertainty in the internal political situation following ailing President Yar'Adua's return, which was shrouded in secrecy, during the early hours February 24. The AgP said he was “unhappy” that the first statement issued following Yar'Adua's return referred to Jonathan as “Vice President.” The GON issued a second statement February 25 that reversed course and refers to Jonathan as the Acting President. Jonathan said that the Villa received a lot of pressure to correct this error so that the lines of leadership and executive direction were clear.
¶3. (C) The AgP lamented, “This terrible situation in the country today has been created by four people: Turai Yar'Adua [the ailing President's wife], his Chief Security Officer (CSO) [Yusuf Mohammed Tilde], his Aide-de-Camp (ADC)[Col. Mustapha Onoedieva] and Professor Tanimu Yakubu [Yar'Adua's Chief Economic Advisor].” The AgP said he does not know their motives, but expected it was likely for nefarious purposes. He added Minister of Agriculture Abba Ruma and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister Adamu Aliero had provided a second-tier of layering to the bubble surrounding Yar'Adua. The AgP noted that “people are angry,” and did not want to allow those surrounding Yar'Adua to replicate the control and access similar to what they had done in Jeddah for the past three months.
¶4. (C) Jonathan said the CSO and ADC saw him separately to let him know that they did not intend to mistreat the AgP and expressed their willingness to work with him (which the AgP doubts). The AgP said he told them both “then the best thing is to stop the charade.” The AgP told the Ambassador he believes Yar'Adua is in a semi-comatose state without an understanding of what is going on around him.
¶5. (C) The AgP said that Former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, who according to Jonathan has become one of his closest advisors, worked out a strategy where he would reach out to other former Nigerian Heads of State, including former Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon, to approach those closest to Yar'Adua, especially his wife Turai, to try to convince them that the best, and most dignified step to take for the country and for Yar'Adua as a human being would be for the President to resign. This action would constitutionally make Jonathan Nigeria's President. Doing such would also be easier than convincing two-thirds of the 42-member Federal Executive Committee (FEC) to declare the ailing President “physically incapacitated and medically unfit” to continue in the office of the Presidency. Jonathan said he and his wife, Patience, visited Turai as a humanistic gesture to express their best wishes for the recovery of Yar'Adua and out of respect for his ailing boss. The AgP said under no circumstances did he want Turai to come to his official residence.
¶6. (C) Once Yar'Adua resigns and Jonathan becomes interim President, he said he would choose a Vice President that could appease the Northerners by working with them to identify a
candidate. AgP Jonathan also shared that until Yar'Adua resigns, and things come down he would not leave the country. (N.B. This is in reference to the POTUS invitation to attend the April 12-13 Nuclear Security Summit). The issue of identifying a northerner as a vice presidential candidate, Jonathan underscored this appears to be the thing most on the minds of the northerners as they feel cheated out of the Presidency with Yar'Adua's illness.
¶7. (C) Jonathan said “everyone, including the Army Chief of Staff (COAS) [LTG Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau] and Chief of the President Guards Brigade [BG Abdul Mustapha]” are concerned about the confusion over who is the executive of the nation. The AgP said the military chiefs are making sure no politicians are reaching out to the rank-and-file, and encouraging the military to stay in the barracks so that the uncertain political situation does not generate coup-like behavior emanating from the mid-ranks because of the confusion. As the Ambassador began her meeting with the Acting President, he had just concluded a meeting with COAS LTG Dambazau (see reftel A for Ambassador's conversation with the COAS February 24).
¶8. (C) Based on points developed telephonically with Assistant Secretary Carson (ref B), Ambassador encouraged Jonathan to change the perception that he is a regional figure, and be seen, rather, as a national figure who has the best interest of the nation at heart. Ambassador expressed that given that the U.S. and Nigeria are very best friends, we feel the need to share our concerns, as any good friend would do, and that we are counting on him to steer Nigeria through this troubled and uncertain period. At the moment, Jonathan's detractors believe he is a surrogate for former President Obasanjo. Ambassador advised the AgP that he needs to publicly demonstrate that he is the sole executor of national issues, not being directed or serving a political purpose for Obasanjo or others, so that his leadership would not be in question and the polity would accept that he had the best interest of nation at hand. The AgP said he appreciated our advice, including publicly holding Obasanjo at arms length. He said he would consider taking steps, including possibly convoking the entire diplomatic corps to brief them on the current political climate, using this and other events to demonstrate that he is his own man,
and diminish the appearance he is a regional leader.
¶9. (C) Jonathan noted that the Northern politicians would always be uncomfortable with him as president, and he understood the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) picked him as Yar'Adua's running mate in 2007 because he represented the Niger Delta. Jonathan said he was handling Niger Delta issues until the Ministry for Niger Delta Affairs was created in September 2008, allowing him to distance himself from being viewed as someone who could only work on that issue. “I was not chosen to be Vice President because I had good political experience,” he said. “I did not. There were a lot more qualified people around to be Vice President, but that does not mean I am not my own man.” However, he said, with the changed circumstances, the AgP said that his sole focus is to leave a legacy of both electoral reform and credible elections, including changing the entire Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The AgP said he was appreciative of the Ambassador's remarks made during the National Day reception February 25 and Assistant Secretary Carson's February 24 statement because both provided him with the courage to press forward.
¶10. (C) Jonathan shared initially, he had the intention to dissolve the Cabinet early the week of February 22, and had planned to make that announcement at the February 24 FEC meeting, but found out that Yar'Adua was returning, and thus dissuaded him from acting. He said the last Cabinet meeting was disastrous and included yelling and screaming, and it is totally dysfunctional. He said he is “not a politician” and had very limited experience as an administrator, but concluded, “I will not tolerate a brawl.” Jonathan said he will dissolve the Cabinet once he knows people are more comfortable with him being the Acting President or if the current strategy to convince Yar'Adua surrogates and family members to allow the ailing president to resign.
¶11. (C) Jonathan agreed to the USG offer of technical assistance to review and update Nigeria's national voter registry and funding for a Parallel Voter Tabulation (PVT). The AgP asked us for a letter formally offering this assistance (NB: we are providing to him today). The Ambassador noted the technical assistance could begin as early as the end of March with his approval (which he gave) with software installed that can assist with cleaning up the voter registry.
¶12. (C) On the INEC Chairman, Ambassador told the AgP that the USG
would not continue any election assistance if Iwu remains on seat after June 2010. She described the meeting between A/S Carson and Iwu, noting the latter showed no signs of respect for good governance. The AgP said he understood the USG would not be able to continue providing technical assistance if the current INEC chairman remains beyond his five-year mandate that ends in June 2010. Ambassador raised the issue of using Iwu's terminal leave to get him out sooner. The AgP said he would ask the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to inquire if the current chair could take terminal leave, which could have him out as soon as next month. Jonathan again said that once he solidifies his position as Acting President or President, and that once the political environment is less uncertain, he would begin taking steps to replace all thirteen of INEC's commissioners, and work toward replacing Iwu earlier than June provided he can confirm the amount of terminal leave Iwu has. However, the AgP noted this would not be easy, but he is committed to seeing this through.
¶13. (C) Jonathan said he does not anticipate standing for elections in 2011 and that he is not working towards being a presidential candidacy. He wants to put into place an electoral structure that will be ready for national elections. He did, however, note that, “if they want me to run, that will be something to consider at that time.” However, he stressed that his focus now and for the next 12 months will be on “doing a good job and witnessing respectable and credible elections in 2011.”
¶14. (S) Ambassador raised with the AgP the case of Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed (aka “Talha”). Talha was indicted earlier this week in New York on terrorism charges. Nigeria's State Security Service (SSS) was about to release Talha onto an international flight before Nigerian police intervened and took him into custody. Ambassador underscored that the SSS' close call in violating an Interpol Red Notice would not be helpful in making the case for Nigeria's removal from the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration List of “Countries of Concern.” Ambassador also asked that SSS appear as witnesses when requested to demonstrate Nigeria remains a partner to the U.S. in the international fight against terrorism. She added that at least at the Director level, SSS not only knew about the Interpol notice, but simply said they did not want to hold him any longer. Ambassador added that the GON police forces did the right thing and stepped in to block the suspect from boarding the plane. He is now in police custody. Ambassador officially requested that he be turned over to the FBI agents here to escort him to the U.S. to stand trial.
¶15. (S) The AgP said he would call in SSS Director General Gadzama to clarify the security agency's role in Talha's near-release and that if the three SSS officers implicated had taken such action without authorization, they would face serious implications, including termination. Ambassador also took the opportunity to request Jonathan stop repeating that the December 25 attempting bombing case involving Nigerian Abdulmutallab was an “one-off aberration” and that Nigeria indeed does have foreign terrorist links and elements operating in country, as exemplified by Talha.
¶16. (C) After two days of uncertainty, that included signals of competing heads of state emanating from the dueling titular references within a Villa press release, it appears that Jonathan has plans to firmly take the reigns of the presidency, with the support from key northerners and the senior leadership of the military. As the Ambassador stepped out of her meeting, at least two Ministers and a Governor were waiting to consult with the Acting President. The Acting President's bottom line is that he would do his best in the job in the next twelve months. He also wanted to ensure we understood he would “not be manipulated by anyone.” We believe the USG is firmly placed to advance our bilateral agenda, including the creation of an environment conducive to free, fair, and credible elections with the approval and assistance of Nigeria's de facto head of state. Even if he decides to contest for the presidency, Jonathan seems sincere in wanting to leave a lasting legacy of electoral reform for Africa's most populous nation. It is always hard to judge how some will behave (or surprise you) when leadership is unexpectedly thrown in their lap. The verdict is out on Jonathan and his previously underwhelming personality and performance needs to keep us in the cautious lane, but so far, so good. Things are quiet. The COAS is doing the right things. Jonathan is reaching out to key respected northerners, like Abdulsalami, which we see as a good thing. Our next steps should be to continue to encourage the AgP on the right path; help on the push back on Obasanjo through former and current USG officials; and, if the drum beat calling for the ailing President to resign picks up speed, we should ensure that we indicate our support for this given that it probably the best thing for the country. End Comment. SANDERS

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